Fight will continue to protect our coastline

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Conservationists have pledged to step up a campaign to protect Scarborough’s coastline after plans set up to protect it were thrown into doubt.

A huge wave of public support shook Westminster as a quarter of a million people called for greater protection for the nation’s seas.

Wildlife Trusts from across the country, including Yorkshire, presented a petition containing 250,000 signatures to Environment Minister Richard Benyon at a House of Commons reception.

It comes after it was revealed the UK’s seas will be protected by 31 new Marine Conservation Zones under proposals announced by the government last month.

But ministers rejected advice to create 127 zones and Yorkshire’s coastal waters have been left out entirely, leading campaigners to describe the plan as a “bitter disappointment”.

The Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s North Sea living seas manager, Kirsten Smith, said: “It was a fantastic day and really showcased the public support for marine protected areas.

“While the day brought to a close our Petition Fish campaign we shall continue to campaign for Marine Conservation Zones off our Yorkshire coastline.”

Yorkshire’s seven recommended sites cover a range of habitats, from the rocky shores at Scarborough and Filey Brigg to the rare chalk habitats off Flamborough Head.

The habitats support diverse communities of animals and plants, some of which are familiar like seaweed, sponges, limpets, whelks, and winkles, others less so like crystal sea slugs, and the ocean quahog - a cockle shaped bivalve which can live to be hundreds of years old.

A list of sites was drawn up following a two-year £8 million government consultation which involved sea users and conservation groups.

Environment Minister Richard Benyon said the scientific evidence in support of a large proportion of the proposed zones was “not up to scratch”.

He said another £3.5 million was being spent on gathering more evidence that could support more zones being designated in future. The 31 zones could be designated by late summer 2013, Mr Benyon said.

To support Yorkshire’s recommended Marine Conservation Zones, visit www.wildlifetrusts.org/MCZfriends